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the volume are of various character, and of course of unequal merit; though all of them are marked by that exquisite melody of versification, ana general felicity of diction, which makes the mere recitation of their words a luxury to readers of taste, even when they pay but little attention to their sense. Most of them, we believe, have already appeared in occasional publications, though it is quite time that they should be collected and engrossed in a less perishable record. If they are less brilliant, on the w)|ple, than the most exquisite productions of the author's earlier days, they are generally marked, we think, by greater solemnity and depth of thought, a vein of deeper reflection, and more intense sympathy with human feelings, and, if possible, by a more resolute and entire devotion to the cause of liberty. Mr. Campbell, we rejoice to say, is not among those poets whose hatred of oppression has been chilled by the lapse of years, or allayed by the suggestions of a base self-interest. He has held on his course through good and through bad report, unseduced, unterrified; and is now found in his duty, testifying as fearlessly against the invaders of Spain, in the volume before us, as he did against the spoilers of Poland in the very first of his publications. It is a proud thing indeed for England, for poetry, and for mankind, that all the illustrious poete of the present day—Byron. Moore, Rogers, Campbell—are distinguished by their zeal for freedom, and their scorn for courtly adulation; while those who have deserted that manly and holy cause have, from that hour, felt their inspiration withdrawn, their harpstrings broken, and the fire quenched in their censers! Even the Laureate, since his unhappy Vision of Judgment, has ceased to sing; and fallen into undutiful as well as ignoble silence, even on court festival». As a specimen of the tone in which an unbought Muse can yet address herself to public themes, we subjoin a few stanzas of a noble ode to the Memory of the Spanish Patriots who died in resisting the late atrocious invasion.
"Brave men who at the Trocadero fell Beside your cannons—eonquer'd not, though slain! There is a victory in dying well For Freedom—and ye have not died in vain; For come what may, there shall be heurts in Spain To honour, ay. embrace your tnartyr'd lot, Cursing the Bigot's and the Bourbon's chain. And looking on your graves, though trophied not. As holier, hallow'd ground than priests could make the spot!"
"Yet laugh not in your carnival of crime Too proudly, ve oppressors !—Spain wag free; Her soil Ая* felt the foot-prints, and her clime Been winnow'd by the wings of Liberty! And thèse, even parting, scatter as they flpe Thoughts—influences, to live in hearts unborn, Opinions that »hall wrench the prison-key From Persecution—show her mask off-torn, And tramp her bloated head beneath the foot of Scorn.
"Glory to them that die in this great cause! Kings, Bigots, can inflict no brand of shame. Or shape of death, to shroud them from applause :— No '—manglers of the martyr's earthly frame!
Your hangman fingers cannot touch hi« fine.
pp. 7s— -1
Mr. Campbell's muse, however, is by » means habitually political; and the greater part of the pieces in this volume have a parclr moral or poetical character. The exqnis.le stanzas to the Rainbow, we believe, are in every body's hands; but we cannot геяй UV temptation of transcribing the latter part of them.
Heaven's covenant ihou didst shine, How came the world's grey falben forth To watch thy sacred sign /
"And when its yellow lustre smii'd
O'er mountains yet untrod,
Each mother held aloft her child
To bless the bow of God!
"Methinks, thy jubilee to keep,
"Nor ever shall the Muse's eye
"The earth to thee her incense yield«.
The lark thy welcome sings,
"How glorious is thy girdle cast
O'er mountain, tower, and town,
"As fresh in yon horizon dark,
As young thy beauties seem.
"For, faithful to its sacred page.
Heaven still rebuilds thy span.
Nor lets thy type grow pale with agf
That first spoke peace to man."
The beautiful verses on Mr. Kemble'i retirement from the stage afford а тегт v markable illustration of the tendency о! М' Campbell's genius to raise ordinary tbir.-into occasions of pathetic poetry, and to ¡ev>: trivial occurrences with the mantle of soieir-thought. We add a few of the stanza«.
"Hie was the spell o'er hearts
Which only acting lends—
Where all their beauty blends:
Full many a tone of thought sublim«.
Steals but a glance of time.
Illusion's perfect triumphs come—
And Sculpture to be dumb."
"Hish were the task—ton high.
Of Kembleand of Lear!
Those tears upon Cordelia's bosom shed,
'' And there was many an hour
ОГ blended kindred fame,
And sister magic came.
The tragic paragons had grown—
The columns of her throne!
From heart to heart in their applause,
In lovelier woman's cause."—pp. 64—67.
We have great difficulty in resisting the temptation to go on: But in conscience \ve must stop here. We are ashamed, indeed, to think how considerable a proportion of this little volume we have already transferred into our extracts. Nor have we much to say of the poems we have not extracted. "The Ritter Bann" and "Reullura" are the two longest pieces, after Theodric—but we think not the most successful. Some of the songs are exquisite—and most of the occasional poems too good for occasions.
The volume is very small—and it contains all that the distinguished author has written for many years. We regret this certainly:— but we do not presume to complain of it. The service of the Muses is a free service— and all that we receive from their votaries is a free gift, for which we are bound to them in gratitude—not a tribute, for the tardy rendering of which they are to be threatened or distrained. They eland to the public in the relation of benefactors, not of debtors. They shower their largesses on unthankful heaJs; and disclaim the trammels of any sordid contract. They are not articled clerks, in short, whom we are entitled to scold for their idleness, but the liberal donors of immortal possessions; for which they require only the easy quit-rent of our praise. If Mr. Campbell is lazy, therefore, he has a right to enjoy his laziness, unmolested by our importunities. If, as we rather presume is the
case, he prefer other employments to the feverish occupation of poetry, he has a right surely to choose his employments—and is more likely to choose welt, than the herd of his officious advisers. For our own parts, we are ready at all times to hail his appearances with delight—but we wait for them with respect and patience: and conceive that we have no title to accelerate them by our reproaches.
Before concluding, we would wish also to protect him against another kind of injustice. Comparing the small bulk of his publications with the length of time that elapses between them, people are apt to wonder that so little has been produced after so long an incubation, and that poems are not better which are the work of so many years—absurdly supposing, that the ingenious author is actually labouring all the while at what he at last produces, and has been diligently at work during the whole interval in perfecting that which is at last discovered to fall short of perfection! To those who know the habits of literary men, nothing however can be more ridiculous than this supposition. Your true drudges, with whom all that is intellectual moves most wretchedly slow, are the quickest and most regular with their publications; while men of genius, whose thoughts play with the ease and rapidity of lightning, often seem tardy to the public, because there are long intervals between the flashes! We are far from undervaluing that care and labour without which no finished performance can ever be produced by mortals; and still farther from thinking it a reproach to any author, that he takes pains to render his works worthy of his fame. But when the slowness and the size of his publications are invidiously put together in order to depreciate their merits, or to raise a doubt as to Ae force of the genius that produced them, we think it right to enter our caveat against a conclusion, which is as rash as it is ungenerous; and indicates a spirit rather of detraction than of reasonable judgment.
The Lay of the Last Minstrel: a Poem. By Walter Scott. Esq. 4to. pp. 318. Edinburgh, Constable and Co.: London, Longman and Co.: 1805.*
We consider this poem as an attempt to transfer the refinements of modern poetry to the matter and the manner of the ancient
* The Novels of Sir Waller Scott have, no doubi. casi his Poetry into the shade: And it is beyond question that thty must always occupy the highest and most conspicuous place in that splendid trophy which his genius has reared to his memory. Vet, when I recollect the vehement admiration it once excited, I connot part with the belief that there is much in his poetry also, which our age should not allow to be forgotten. And it is under tl>« impression that I now venture to reprint my
metrical romance. The author, enamoured of the lofty visions of chivalry, and partial to the strains in which they were formerly
contemporary notices of the two poems which I think produced the greatest effect at the lime: the one as the frit and most strikingly original of the whole series: the other as being on the whole the beet; and also as having led me to make some remarks, not only on the general character of the author* s genius, but on the peculiar perils of very popular poetry—of which the time that has since elapsed has afforded some curious illustrations.
embodied, seems to have employed all the resources of his genius in endeavouring to recall them to the favour and admiration of the public; and in adapting to the taste of modern readers a species of poetry which was once the delight of the courtly, but has long ceased to gladden any other eyes than those of the scholar and the antiquary. This is a romance, therefore, composed by a minstrel of the present day; or such a romance as we may suppose would have been written in modern times, if that style of composition had continued to be cultivated, and partaken . of the improvements which every branch of literature has received since the time of its desertion. Upon this supposition, it was evidently Mr. Scott’s business to retain all that was good, and to reject all that was bad in the models upon which he was to form himself; adding, at the same time, all the interest and beauty which could possibly be assimilated to the manner and spirit of his originals. It was his duty, therefore, to reform the rambling, obscure, and interminable narratives of the ancient romancers—to moderate their digressions —to abridge or retrench their unmerciful or needless descriptions—and to expunge altogether those feeble and prosaic passages, the rude stupidity of which is so apt to excite the derision of a modern reader. At the same time, he was to rival, if he could, the force and vivacity of their minute and varied representations—the characteristic simplicity of their pictures of manners—the energy and conciseness with which they frequently describe great events—and the lively colouring and accurate drawing by which they give the effect of reality to every scene they undertake to delineate. In executing this arduous task, he was permitted to avail himself of all that variety of style and manner which had been sanctioned by the ancient practice; and bound to embellish his performance with all the graces of diction and versification which could be reconciled to the simplicity and familiarity of the minstrel's song. With what success Mr. Scott's efforts have been attended in the execution of this adventurous undertaking, our readers will be better able to judge in the sequel: but, in the mean time, we may safely venture to assert, that he has produced a very beautiful and entertaining poem, in a style which may fairly be considered as original; and which will be allowed to afford satisfactory evidence of the genius of the author, even though he should not succeed in converting the public to his own opinion as to the interest or dignity of the subject. We are ourselves inclined indeed to suspect that his partiality for the strains of antiquity has imposed a little upon the severo of his judgment, and impaired the beauty of the present imitation, by directing his attention rather to what was characteristic, than to what was unexceptionable in his originals. Though he has spared too many of their faults, however, he has certainly improved upon their beauties: and while we can scarcely bolo regretting, that the feuds of Border chief.
tains should have monopolised as much peetry as might have served to immortalise the whole baronage of the empire, we are the more inclined to admire the interest and magnificence which he has contrived to communicate to a subject so unpromising. Whatever may be thought of the conduct of the main story, the manner of introducing it must be allowed to be extremely poetical. An aged minstrel who had “harped to King Charles the Good,” and learned to love his art at a time when it was honoured by all that was distinguished in rank or in genius, having fallen into neglect and misery in the evil days of the usurpation, and the more frivolous gaieties or bitter contentions of the succeeding reigns, is represented as wandering about the Border in poverty and solitude, a few years after the Revolution. In this situation he is driven, by want and weariness, to seek shelter in the Border castle of the Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth; and being cheered by the hospitality of his reception, offers to sing “an ancient strain,” relating to the old warriors of her family; and after some fruitless attempts to recall the long-forgotten melody, pours forth “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” in six cantos, very skilfully divided by some recurrence to his own situation, and some complimentary interruptions from his noble auditors. The construction of a fable seems by no means the forte of our modern poetical writers; and no great artifice, in that respect, was to be expected, perhaps, from an imitator of the ancient romancers. Mr. Scott, indeed, has himself insinuated, that he considered the story as an object of very subordinate importance; and that he was less solicitous to deliver a regular narrative, than to connect such a series of incidents as might enable him to introduce the manners he had undertaken to delineate, and the imagery with which they were associated. Though the conception of the fable is, probably from these causes, exceedingly defective, it is proper to lay a short sketch of it before our readers, both for the gratification of their curiosity, and to facilitate the application of the remarks we may be afterwards tempted to offer, Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, the Lord of Branksome, was slain in a skirmish with the Cars, about the middle of the sixteenth century. He left a daughter of matchless beauty, an infant son, and a high-minded widow, who, though a very virtuous and devout person, was privately addicted to the study of Magic, in which she had been initiated by her father. Lord Cranstoun their neighbour was at feud with the whole clan of Scott; but had fallen desperately in love with the daughter, who returned his passion with equal sincerity and ardour, though withheld, by her duty to her mother, from uniting her destiny with his. The poem opens with a description of the warlike establishment of Branksome-hall; and the first incident which occurs is a dialogue between the Spirits of the adjoining mountain and river, who, after consulting the stars, declare that no good fortune can ever bless the mansion '•' till pride be quelled, and love be free." The lady, whose forbidden studies had taught her to understand the language of «ach speakers, overhears this conversation; and Tows, if possible, to retain her purpose in spite of it. She calls a gallant knight of her train; therefore, and directs him to ride immedjately to the abbey of Melrose, and there to ask, from the monk of St. Mary's aisle, the mighty book that was hid in the tomb of the wizard Michael Scott. The remainder of the fir«t panto is occupied with the night journey of the warrior. When he delivers his message, the monk appears filled with consternanon and terror, but leads him at last through many galleries and chapels to the spot where die wizard was interred; and, after some account of his life and character, the warrior beare* up the tomb-stone, and is dazzled by the streaming splendour of an ever-burning lamp, which illuminates the sepulchre of the enchanter. With trembling hand he takes the book from the side of the deceased, and iimics home with it in his bosom.
In the mean time, Lord Cranstoun and the lorely Margaret have met at dawn in the woods adjacent to the castle, and are repeatin; their vows of true love, when they are »tartl«! by the approach of a horseman. The lady retreats; ana the lover advancing, finds it to be the messenger from Branksome, with »horn, as an hereditary enemy, he thinks it !»"с<?$чагу to enter immediately into combat. The poor knight, fatigued with his nocturnal adventure?, is dismounted at the first shock, and falls desperately wounded to the ground; while Lord Cranstoun, relenting towards the t'Gsman of his beloved, directs his page to itvmj him to the castle, and gallops home 'j!ore any alarm can be given. Lord Cran-iinin's раде is something unearthly. It is a little misshapen dwarf, whom he found one dar when he was hunting, in a solitary glen, and took home with him. It never speaks. except Dow and then to cry "Lost! lost! km!" and is, on the whole, a hateful, mali''¡"Li- littlo urchin, with no one good <|ualily but his unaccountable attachment and fidelity r''hi« master. This personage, orí approachirg the wounded Borderer, discovers the mighty '•*k in his bosom, which he finds some diili'•Wy in opening, and has scarcely had time 11 read a sinsle spell in it. when he is struck '''-'.'n. by an invisible hand, and the clasps of the magic volume shut suddenly more closely '••'M ever. This one spell, however, enables •'.тп to practice every kind of illusion. He :'У< the wounded knight on his horse, and leads him into the castle, while the warders ve nothing bot a wain of hay. He throws him down, unperceived. at the door of the
S'iv's chamber, and turns to make good his '"'.«•at. In passing throngh the court, how'ут. he sees the young heir of Buccleuch at p'ay, and. assuming the form of one of his "impanions, tempts him to go out with him '•'i th- \vood«, where, as soon as they pass a 'nilft. he resumes his own shape, and bounds •'••тау. The bewildered child is met by two
English archers, who make prize of him, and
carry him off, while the goblin page returns to the castle; where he personates the young baron, to the great annoyance of the whole inhabitants.
The lady finds the wounded knight, and eagerly employs charms for his recovery, that she may learn the story of his disaster. The lovely Margaret, in the mean time, is sitting in her turret, gazing on the western star, and musing on the scenes of the morning, when she discovers the blazing beacons that announce the approach of an English enemy. The alarm is immediately given, and bustling preparation made throughout the mansion for defence. The English force under the command of the Lords Howard and Dacre speedily appears before the castle, leading with them the young Buccleuch; and propose that the lady should either give up Sir William of Deloraine (who had been her messenger to Melrose), as having incurred the guilt of march treason, or receive an English garrison within her walls. She answers, with much spirit, that her kinsman will clear himself of the imputation of treason by single combat, and that no foe shall ever get admittance into her fortress. The English Lords, being secretly apprised of the approach of powerful succours to the besieged, agree to the proposal of the combat; and stipulate that the boy shall be restored to liberty or detained in bondage, according to the issue of the battle. The lists are appointed for the ensuing day; and a truce being proclaimed in the mean time, the opposite bands mingle in hospitality and friendship.
Deloraine being wounded, was expected to appear by a champion; and some contention arises for the honour of that substitution.— This, however, is speedily terminated by a person in the armour of the warrior himself, who encounters the English champion, slays him, and leads his captive young chieftain to the embraces of his mother. At this moment Deloraine himself appears, half-clothed and unarmed, to claim the combat which has been terminated in his absence! and all flock around the stranger who had personated him so successfully. He unclasps his helmet: and behold! Lord Cranstoun of Teviotside! The lady, overcome with gratitude, and the remembrance of the spirits' prophecv, consents to forego the feud, and to give the fair hand of Margaret to that of the enamoured Baron. The rites of betrothment are then celebrated with great magnificence: and a splendid entertainment given to all the English and Scottish chieftains whom the alarm had assembled at Branksome. Lord Cranstoun's page plays several unlucky tricks during the festival, and breeds some dissension among the warrior?. To soothe their ireful mood, the minstrels are introduced, who recite three ballad pieces of considerable merit. Just as their songs are ended, a super natural darkness spreads itself through the hall ; a tremendous flash of lightning and peal of thunder ensue, which break just on the spot where the goblin page had been seated, who is heard to rry " Foun 1! found! found!" and is no more to be seen, when the darkness clears away. The whole party is chilled with terror at this extraordinary incident; and Deloraine protests that he distinctly saw the figure of the ancient wizard Michael Scott in the middle of the lightning. The lady renounces for ever the unhallowed study of magic; and all the chieftains, struck with awe and consternation, vow to make a pilgrimage to Melrose, to implore rest and forgiveness for the spirit of the departed sorcerer. With the description of this ceremony the minstrel closes his "Lay."
From this little sketch of the story, our readers will easily perceive, that, however well calculated it may be for the introduction of picturesque imagery, or the display of extraordinary incident, it has but little pretension to the praise of a regular or coherent narrative. The magic of the lady, the midnight visit to Melrose. and the mighty book of the enchanter, which occupy nearly onethird of the whole poem, and engross the attention of the reader for a long time after the commencement of the narrative, are of no use whatsoever in the subsequent development of the fable, and do not contribute, in any degree, either to the production or explanation of the incidents that follow. The whole character and proceedings of the goblin page, in like manner, may be considered as merely episodical; for though he is employed in some of the subordinate incidents, it is remarkable that no material part of the fable requires the intervention of supernatural agency. The young Buccleuch might have wandered into the wood, although he had not been decoyed by a goblin; and the dame might have given her daughter to the deliverer of her son, although she had never listened to the prattlement of the river and mountain spirits. There is, besides all this, a great deal of gratuitous and digressive description, and the whole sixth canto may be said to be redundant. The story should naturally end with the union of the lovers : and the account of the feast, and the minstrelsy that solemnised their betrothment is a sort of epilogue, superadded after the catastrophe is complete.
But though we feel it to be our duty to point out these obvious defects in the structure of the fable, we have no hesitation in conceding to the author, that the fable is but a secondary consideration in performances of this nature. A poem is intended to please by the images it suggests, and the feelings it inspires; and if it contain delightful images and affecting sentiments, our pleasure will not be materially impaired by some slight want of probability or coherence in the narrative by which they are connected. The callida junetura of its members is a grace, no doubt, which ought always to be aimed at: but the quality of the members themselves is a consideration of far higher importance; and that by which alone the success and character of the work must be ultimately decided. The adjustment of a fable may indicate the industry or the judgment of the writer; but the Genius of the poet can only be shown in his
management of its successive incident». 1-. these more essential particulars, Mr. Sam's merits, we think, are unequivocal. Hevrriln throughout with the spirit and the force of i poet; and though he occasionally discovers i little too much, perhaps, of the i: brave neglect," and is frequently inattentive to l& delicate propriety and scrupulous correctaea of his diction, he compensates for those defects by the fire and animation of his «bole composition, and the brilliant colouring »ai prominent features of the figures with which he has enlivened it. We shall now prottel to lay before our readers some of the parages which have made the greatest impression oa our own minds; subjoining, at the same Ur.t. such observations as they have most lore.!; suggested.
In the very first rank of poetical excelkact we are inclined to place the introductory L.-j concluding lines of every canto ; in which ш ancient strain is suspended, and the feelings and situation of the Minstrel himsell described in the words of the author. The elegance and the beauty of this settinz. if f. may so call it, though entirely of modera workmanship, appears to us to be folly more worthy of admiration than the bolder relief of the antiques which it encloses: anJ \<яз us to regret that the author should have »ised, in imitation and antiquarian research so much of those powers which seem ¡- } equal to the task of raising him an Ыере:л:.1 reputation. In confirmation of these remî'i*we give a considerable part of (he iiuruiuction to the whole poem :—
"The way was long, the wind we« cold.
After describing his introduction to ¡h' presence of the Duchess, and his offer и entertain her with his music, the descnpi;'-proceeds :—
"The humble boon was soon obtain'd;